Journalists missing or killed globally, 1992-2018. Data from CPJ. Graphic: James P. Galasyn

7 July 2018 (Desdemona Despair) – Journalism has never been a safe profession, but in 2018, it’s more than three times as dangerous as it was 2001. According to data collected by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), murders and disappearances of reporters worldwide have increased from a low of 34 in 2002 to a high of 128 in 2015. And although it’s only halfway through 2018, the total so far is 92.

World population has increased greatly since 1992, so it’s reasonable to ask about the per capita rate at which journalists are killed and disappeared. The population was about 5.5 billion in 1992, and it’s around 7.6 billion now. The growth rate between these years is pretty close to linear. Dividing the CPJ numbers by the world population numbers gives us the rate per billion people, which yields a similarly shaped curve:

Journalists missing or killed per billion people globally, 1992-2018. Data from CPJ. Graphic: James P. Galasyn

This graph shows that the rate of journalist attacks went from a low of 5.5 in 2002 to a high of 17.7 in 2015, increasing by a factor of 3.2 in just thirteen years. We’re halfway through 2018 and the number is 12.3, which puts it in the top ten years since 1992.

The increasing trend in violence against journalists is due to the global rise of authoritarian governance. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reports that in 2018, its World Press Freedom Index fell to the lowest value yet. The reason is increasing official hostility to the free press:

More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.

State-sanctioned violence against journalists has prompted the CPJ to create an “Impunity Index”, which ranks nations by the number of unsolved murders over a 10-year period, as a percentage of their populations. Here are the twelve worst nations for violence against journalists:

    1. Somalia
    2. Syria
    3. Iraq
    4. South Sudan
    5. The Philippines
    6. Mexico
    7. Pakistan
    8. Brazil
    9. Russia
    10. Bangladesh
    11. Nigeria
    12. India

The trend of state-sanctioned violence against the free press is relentlessly increasing. Is there anything on the horizon can possibly reverse it?




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